Does Rewashing Ziploc Bags Really Save You Money?

Mal writes in:

I loved your post about how little you save by not flushing. You should do the same thing about your favorite bugaboo, rewashing Ziploc bags!

Rewashing Ziploc sandwich bags is something that I’ve joked about being a frugality “step too far” since the first days of The Simple Dollar. In March 2009, I completely prepared a post on this very topic, intending to present it in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion on April 1, 2009, but I never got around to posting it. Why? It simply read too close to being serious, as though I were strongly advocating rewashing Ziploc sandwich bags as a method to become a millionaire.

However, I did do some real research into the topic to find out how much a person could actually save by rewashing Ziploc sandwich bags. Here’s what I learned.

First of all, in experiments in our own dishwasher, you can wash and re-use a single Ziploc sandwich bag seven times, for a total of eight uses, on average. I would test this by seeing whether or not the sandwich bag would hold liquid after a thorough cleaning. I tried several bags, with use counts ranging from two uses up to one bag that managed nineteen uses. The average, however, was eight uses per bag.

I also timed how long it took to handle each individual bag to properly clean and dry it. In order to get it clean and also get it appropriately dry, you have to pre-rinse the bag a bit, then carefully spread it across as many dishwasher tines as it will fit around. With some practice, I was able to get this procedure down to about twenty seconds a bag.

How much water and detergent is used to wash a bag? I could fit eight bags on the top rack of our dishwasher. According to my calculations, the cost to run a full load is 15.6 cents worth of detergent and water. This means each bag uses 0.9 cents’ worth of detergent and water to get clean.

How much do such Ziploc sandwich bags cost? You can get 500 Ziploc sandwich bags for $8.38 at my local Sam’s Club. This calculates out to a price of – get this – 1.7 cents per bag.

It’s not going to be good, is it? Let’s run the calculations and figure out the savings.

Over eight uses of a Ziploc sandwich bag, you can either buy eight new ones at a cost of 1.7 cents per bag, for a total cost of 13.6 cents, or you can use one bag (cost: 1.7 cents), wash it seven times (cost: 0.9 cents per wash for a total of 6.3 cents), giving a total cost of 8.0 cents, and spend two minutes and twenty seconds rinsing and positioning the bags so that they actually get clean.

You could repeat all of this 25.7 times in an hour, so let’s look at the final math.

You could either use 206 new Ziploc sandwich bags at a cost of $3.50 or you could use 26 new sandwich bags at a cost of 44 cents, wash each one seven times in the dishwasher (at a cost of 0.9 cents per wash, a total of $1.64), and spend an hour doing it.

Your total savings for an hour of washing Ziploc sandwich bags is $1.42.

That, to me, is not worth it. Given the multitude of things a person can do for an hour to earn a return better than $1.42, to spend your time washing Ziploc sandwich bags just to save that small amount is a true waste of time.

Sure, a person with very strong environmental beliefs might choose to do so. Of course, if you have strong environmental standards, why are you using Ziplocs in the first place? Use some heavy-duty reusable containers.

The moral of the story is this: washing Ziploc sandwich bags is not an effective use of your time. It’s an activity that earns $1.42 per hour of nonstop baggie washing. That’s simply not worth it.

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  1. Andi says:

    For me, washing out baggies (I’m talking the ones that zip shut) is not so much about how much am I saving but an attitude about how I use my resources and learning to use something until it’s worn out. Generally, I try to avoid baggies but when I do use the, I’ll use them until there’s a hole.

    I did not know people put washed them in the dishwasher! I usually do a couple when I do the dishes at night as I’m cleaning up the kitchen for the time. For me the time is negligible. And, maybe just maybe, it’s not healthy for us to always assign a dollar value to our time?

  2. Kevin WIlson says:

    You are assuming that a person is going to wash their ziplocs in the dishwasher.

    We don’t buy ziplocs – but things do sometimes arrive home in them (or in other plastic bags, for that matter). If they have had greasy or meat items in them, we throw them away. It takes far too long to get them really clean and sanitary. But most have just had veggie peelings (brought home from where my partner works, for our compost), or cookies, or some such, and then they just get washed by hand in the same water as everything else, rinsed, and hung on a set of bars over the sink to drip dry. The only extra cost is a tiny amount of rinse water. Time? I’ll check it next time I do it, but probably around the same as arranging them in the dishwasher.

  3. Karen M. says:

    This is one of those things I look at in terms of environmental consequences, not frugality. Of course you aren’t saving money washing your zipper bags, but you are saving the bag. And since we don’t really know how long it takes plastic to decompose–many experts err on the side of ‘forever’–I think that every less baggie in a landfill is a good thing.

  4. I loved the toilet article. In this case I generally try to reuse and wash ziploc bags, but I don’t go nuts if one gets thrown away.

    But I believe relatively strongly that we need to reduce the accumulation of nonbiodegradable junk in our landfills (did you know they found a giant floating garbage heap in the atlantic, like the one found in the pacific?), and the spending of nonrenewable resources to create that junk to begin with (remember, plastic comes from oil!), which is why I’d do this is I had the time to do it.

  5. Oh, and you’re right about not using them at all… which is why I and several other commenters above me probably don’t actually buy them ourselves, but our roommates or coworkers do and we end up with them somehow (leftovers or office parties, whatnot). I don’t think I’ve EVER bought ziploc bags!

  6. Sheila says:

    Now I’m curious – I am trying to use waxed paper, like my grandma did, as a sandwich wrap. Does it decompose?

  7. Johanna says:

    “Rewashing Ziploc bags is something that I’ve joked about being a frugality “step too far” since the first days of The Simple Dollar.”

    No, it’s not. You used to be a proponent of washing Ziploc bags. On November 29, 2007, you argued that it earns you an hourly rate of $120/hour. Or was that a failed attempt at being tongue-in-cheek too?

  8. Coding Slave says:

    Just buy a lunch box and be done with it. You can pack anything from sandwich to Lasagna, throw it in the dishwasher, drop it, abuse it, but still runs for years. I’ve been using mine for the last 5 years.

  9. Sara says:

    The only real reason to reuse ziploc bags is to save the environment. Americans make way too much trash! The environment cannot take it.

  10. Johanna says:

    My comment a minute ago got sent to moderation, so I’m going to try again.

    “Rewashing Ziploc bags is something that I’ve joked about being a frugality “step too far” since the first days of The Simple Dollar.”

    Actually, in the early days of The Simple Dollar (e.g., November 29, 2007), you often argued in favor of washing Ziploc bags.

  11. Dodie says:

    I think of this in terms of environmental consequences too. Last week another “garbage patch” of hundreds of square miles of plasticv bits was dicovered in the Atlantic ocean, comparably to the first Pacific Ocean one. These bags are easy to use but I feel using them at all is shortsighted.

  12. marta says:

    Actually I do wash my ziploc bags (those with the zipper) and I get lots of uses out of them. The ones we have here aren’t that cheap — I can’t remember the exact price but it’s around 3 euros for a pack of 20 bags or so.

    Anyway, I don’t use them to store raw meat/fish or greasy food. As I use them mostly to store bread (in the freezer) and other dry food items, such as cereal bars or trail mix (on my backpacking trips), it’s a no-brainer to wash them under the tap and then air-dry. It doesn’t take any time — at least, not a noticeable amount of time!

    Some things, such as the flushing issue aren’t just about money. Also, not every fricking minute of our time can have a monetary value attached to it. Sometimes people are just…there, doing nothing.

  13. Jon says:

    We don’t use the bags very often so we go ahead and rewash them. It’s a pain to go to the store and search for them and then figure out which one is the cheapest, to much time. Since I do dishes by hand at night anyways (I wasn’t thinking when I got married that I should make sure the dishes we got are dishwasher safe), I figure mine as well wash the bag. The time seems rather negligible and I don’t have any cost for soap since it’s going down the drain either way.

  14. Alex says:

    You can also wash them with your clothes in the washing machine (as long as they aren’t too greasy).

  15. Karen M. says:

    @ Sheila (#4)
    yes

  16. Des says:

    We don’t wash the cheap-o fold-and-close sandwich bags, but we do hand wash the more expensive gallon freezer bags as long as they are manageable (as in, the held veggies or popcorn rather than soup stock.)

  17. Erin says:

    I feel guilty about just throwing it away. That’s why I reuse them. It’s not about saving money for me. I try to use plastic containers more than baggies though because honestly IMO….washing baggies is a PITA. ;-)

  18. Mary says:

    I reused the zip top bags for all the meat and bones I fed my dog. She ate raw and I bought in bulk, so you have to put it in something! I washed the bags and hung them over the sink to dry. Some of those bags lasted several uses, some didn’t. I also reused the ones we already used for cookies, sandwiches and veggies. It saves time, to me, not going to the store to get more. For some reason you always run out when you need them!

  19. cv says:

    I’m with Des (#8). The small cheapie bags aren’t worth it to me, but the gallon-size freezer bags are. We have some of the sturdier quart size ones that we reuse, too. I generally agree about using other reusable containers when possible, but nothing is quite as good as a Ziploc bag for storing half a block of cheese in the fridge, or for taking trail mix on a hike. We wash them by hand, not the dishwasher.

    Trent, I think the link to Sam’s Club is broken. I was curious which bags you were running the comparison on, since some of the larger bags can be a lot more than 2 cents a bag.

    For me it’s not really about the money. As other commenters have said, it’s about being mindful and not wasteful of the resources I use.

  20. Kerry D. says:

    We use some zip loks, and try to rinse/reuse those that aren’t really soiled (i.e. apple slices). But, I recently made my daughter a 12″ sandwich holder with a half ziplok as a liner, in about a half hour. It has velcro to fasten, then when it’s open she has an adorable placemat to eat lunch at school. Definitely not related to the value of my time, but fun for us to find a scrap of fabric in a cute pattern and work out the design. An online tutorial stated that the sheet of ziplok (one side of a gallon size) lasted quite a long time. Next up–a cloth napkin to match. :)

  21. anna says:

    To those of you who are super concerned about the enviroment & wash your baggies. Wouldn’t those “grab n’ go” plastic ziploc containers be much easier to use/clean and last a lot longer than a baggie?

  22. Jenny says:

    I see what you mean, but for us it’s a way to completely avoid ever buying Ziplocs. We frequently receive home-baked goodies/leftovers from both sets of our parents in Ziploc bags, and we wash them out and use them a few times instead of throwing them out straight away. We don’t just use them for food. We also save them to package our consignment sale items and also to keep a few cloth wet wipes in the diaper bag. To me, an avoided purchase is a good thing. And we don’t have a Sam’s membership so I don’t think we could get that good of a deal. Also, we never put them in the dishwasher. Depending on what was in the bag, we just rinse it out with water (maybe a little soap) and then place the bag, inside out, over a glass or something to dry. We never reuse a bag that stored meat. For sandwiches, we have two Wrap-N-Mats that we love. They work for cookies and stuff too. Wow. It’s amazing all the thought that can go into saving money on Ziploc bags!

  23. Karen says:

    We rewash ziploc bags that are in good shape and have not stored raw meat. For us it is not about saving money, it is because we cannot buy those kind of bags here overseas. When we visit our family in the US, we seem to have to train ourselves away from it, as we are so used washing and reusing!

    They are also good for packing small items for traveling, and the quart size bags are required for any trial size liquids we take on airplanes. :-) Those we just keep separate and use them again for the purpose.

  24. Gina says:

    lol i like this topic

  25. Shevaun says:

    Hey Trent, you silly goose! Don’t prewash and put ‘em in the dishwasher! Turn ‘em inside out and wash ‘em with your kitchen laundry (towels and what not) with laundry detergent and a bit of bleach (or not if you prefer not). Hang them up to dry on a clothes line (don’t put them in the dryer–though most are fine if they accidently go in the dryer).

    And, I agree with Andi–it’s less about saving the money (though that’s nice, too). It’s an attitude toward resources and not throwing more plastic into the environment if we can help it.

  26. JESSU says:

    From an environmental standpoint I think rewashing would be a good idea simply because if we did rewash our ziplock bags we would not buy 500 of them (more like 20) and they would last us a really long time. XD

  27. Noadi says:

    Anna: Yes and no. I do use mostly washable plastic containers for small quantities of food, leftovers, lunch, cut veggies, etc. I actually only keep ziplock bags around for storing raw meat and the big 1 gallon bags for large quantities of food like bread items that I’ve baked, salads (bag takes less fridge room than a bowl and I don’t have a very large fridge), uncut veggies from my parents garden that they give me, etc.

    The meat bags get tossed to prevent cross contamination and the gallon bags get rinsed out in my sink since I have no dishwasher. If it takes me more than 5 seconds to rinse a bag I’d be very very surprised.

  28. SZCZEBRZESZYN says:

    I apply the successively-lower-use principle. For example, after drying my hands with a paper towel, I use it to wipe the counter. Beyond that I might use it to wipe my shoes or check the oil. So, after using a baggie for food, I apply it to a lower use like holding coins, and subsequently to messy garbage.

  29. Wren says:

    I probably use a (small) box of the things a year, and then mostly to send something home with someone who doesn’t want to worry about returnin the dish to us. I’d rather use glass or even re-usable storage containers than to keep putting plastic bags into the landfills. What do you really need them for that can’t be accomplished just as well (or better) by more durable containers?

  30. Helen says:

    I’m a big fan of the “simple dollar” but find it surprising that saving money seems to be the one and only concern. Trent — please consider saving natural resources as well! When it comes to whether it’s worth saving water, gas, plastic bags, etc., it’s not just about saving pennies or dollars, but about what of today’s natural environment is saved for our children’s future.

  31. Jennifer H. says:

    I agree with many previous posters — it’s not primarily a money thing, it’s a resource thing, and I think it’s important to distinguish between the two.
    Also, if you’re in Africa where such imported items do in fact cost quite a bit, it becomes worth it. I found out that once you wash them out, you can just stick them (wet) onto the fridge upside down, where they hang until you’re ready to use them, or put them away. They don’t fall down once dry.

  32. MegB says:

    I recommend the Snack Taxis. They are cloth/nylon reusable sandwich bags that you can order at http://www.reusablebags.com. Those, combined with my reusable plastic containers (i.e. Gladware), have resulted in a lot less waste at lunchtime. One caveat–they are not good if you have items that produce a lot of liquid. However, for fresh fruit or veggies, chips, crackers, sandwiches, english muffins, etc. they are great!

  33. Evangeline says:

    Saving money is important and so is protecting the environment, but let’s be reasonable and stay off the soap box. Just because you toss a baggie away doesn’t mean you are reckless with all of the earth’s resources. It just means you do not recycle baggies. It is what it is, and nothing more. Now for the bathroom thing.. there is no price on the ick factor, but to each his own. I just hope I never walk into their bathroom. Ever.

  34. Ellen says:

    Shevaun @ #12 – our washing machine would tear them apart.

    I’m with those who, if you’re washing them, would just wash them by hand when I’m rinsing or washing the dishes, & don’t re-use ones that held raw meat. Basically I’m with Noadi @ #13, except I have small glass containers & hard plastic storage containers (it seems to me the softer/disposable plastic doesn’t really clean as well as glass). We recycle rather than throwing away those plastic bags we do end up using.

  35. Dianne says:

    I do reuse ziploc bags. Mostly I find them useful for protecting open products from freezer burn, odors, etc. So it’s pretty much a no-brainer for me to reuse ones that I used to store bags of coffee beans, half-used bags of frozen vegetables, etc. They also work well for storing batches of cookies and muffins, as well as garden produce. A box of top quality gallon-sized bags can last me an entire year. All I have to do is turn them inside out and wash in the dishpan. I store them on the door of my freezer.

  36. J. O. says:

    In our little province in Canada we can have our recycling picked up every second week along with our garbage; we can recycle all plastic bags, almost all plastic containers, metal, glass and paper/cardboard. Actually, it’s not a “can do”, it’s a requirement. We also have to separate our compost into a separate cart and it gets picked up as well.

    Would people like to weigh in on whether they have municipal or other forms of recycling or composting, and identify roughly where they live? I’m curious. Thanks to anyone who takes the time to reply.

  37. Gretchen says:

    It has never occured to me to wash a ziploc in the dishwasher.

    I just shake out the crumbs. The meaty or otherwise really dirty ones get tossed.
    I also do this for things like bread and chip bags.

  38. Julie says:

    I would never ever wash a plastic bag. Mostly because I typically only do dishes once a week or when I need a particular pot. The only time I’ve ever re-used one was after it was used to transport some old, clean teaspoons to work for community use. I figured the spoons were clean so the bag is still clean.
    But after reading mention of this concept when I first started reading Simple Dollar, I quickly realized that I have a lot of tupperware of many different sizes. Much more than I ever used before. So I just quit using plastic bags altogether. I still have 1 box that I bought right before I changed the rules. And I’ll still use them for things like keeping track of loose hardware or packing for a trip (come to think of it, I reuse bags for these purposes too). But I think I’ve only used 1 new bag in the last 3 months.

  39. moom says:

    Don’t use the bags. In our household we use plenty of plastic boxes for this kind of thing. They are much more reuseable.

  40. Shevaun says:

    Evangaline @#14 — I think it’s a little unfair to say that other people are on “a soap box”. I didn’t call anyone a dirty rotten sinner or anything. Geepers. I just said that reusing bags was one way (among many others) of being mindful of our actions. I also didn’t claim to never throw a plastic bag in the garbage–in fact, I do throw them away if they’ve had raw meat in them, especially chicken. All I said is that saving money is one consideration. *Another* consideration is respect for resources.

  41. Michelle says:

    I also go through one box of Ziplock bags in a year. Because I use reusable containers. I have never washed a bag in my life, and don’t plan too. If you’re worried about waste, even if you put 8 less bags in a landfill, you’ll still be putting a bag in a landfill. If you use a reusable container, you could go years without putting something a landfill.

    I don’t wash plastic baggies, not because I don’t care about the environment, but because I care enough about it to not use them in the first place.

  42. Jeff says:

    Why in the world would you wash them in the dishwasher? It takes seconds to turn them inside out and wash and rinse them in the sink. Just hang them on wooden spoons and dry in the dish rack.
    Amy Dacyczyn covered this in her newsletter years ago. It’s worth it.

  43. Arthi says:

    I wash and re-use the foil trays that Indian takeout food comes in.

    I use them for baking puff pastries. Since they are firmer than plain foil sheets, I can wash and use them again.

  44. Maus says:

    There is a much simpler way to achieve effective re-use of these bags. First, triage the bags. Those that held things like nuts or other loose dry items may not even need cleaning. Those that held carrot sticks or some other fruit/vegetable item that was “juicy” can be handled with a simple cold water rinse and air dry. Those that held meat or gravy can be rinsed out with hot water and used as an outer bag when freezing something (in other words, I double bag frozen items) because they will not come in contact with the new food items. Lastly, I throw out the bags that are simply too messy or disgusting to even consider reusing; but these are few and far between.

    This is not really an issue of ROI on time, but one of developing a good habit of recycling and reusing in an environmentally conscious way that can be applied to many other daily objects.

  45. Diane M says:

    I occasionally re-wash the bags. But mostly I have gone to reusable containers. Also, I now use wax paper sheets from a restaurant supply store to wrap sandwiches etc for lunch. I recycle most of the plastic bags things come in at the grocery store – unless they are greasy. It is more about the environment than the cost savings.

    I really enjoy this website, Trent – it is one of my home pages and I have sent the link to several friends. Thank you!

  46. Megan says:

    I find it interesting that you specify ziplock sandwich bags. Is that intentional or unintentional?

    I can’t speak to washing and reusing Ziplock sandwich bags, because I don’t use them. I find they make my sandwich soggy, so I just use regular sandwich baggies for luck.

    If I’m going to use a ziploc bag, it’s usually the gallon size for storing cheese and meats and freezing things. I wash those, and much like #22, I wash them by hand, and would never put them in the dishwasher.

    I wash them for two reasons: 1) environmental, although I realize that me throwing two or three fewer plastic bags into the trash doesn’t make that much of a difference, and 2) it just seems like such a waste to throw away a perfectly serviceable bag when I could easily wash it and reuse it with very little trouble.

  47. Ashley says:

    I have tried using plastic containers for portion-size meats, but often there is too much air trapped into the container…thus freezer burn.

    As such, I do use Zip-Locks (I can just squeeze out any air). I’ve tried re-using them…going so far as marking “chicken”, “beef”, and “pork” before re-use so I don’t cross-contaminate. We don’t have a dish-washer, and hand washing the bags proved futile…they became “thin” and the plastic was very cloudy.

    I would happily pay extra for a “green”, biodegradable Zip Lock.

    QUESTION: Could I wrap portion-cut meats in wax paper and then put into containers? Would that prevent the freezer burn?

  48. Kat says:

    I am with Sheila #4. Plastic is becoming an enormous environmental problem – with potential human health problems (see recent articles about the newest plastic garbage mass found in the Atlantic). I have not been able to wean myself off all plastic yet, but I am taking small steps in that direction. I re-use them as long as they seem to be holding up.

  49. MiniDayz says:

    I use reusable bags made of good fabric and other materials… but I don’t understand how you only save about a dollar something rewashing bags. If you could use the same bag seven times and only save $1.42 in total?

    And it doesn’t take an hour to wash ziplocks, if it’s raw meat, poultry, pasta sauce, etc. then I would just throw the bag out, but how often do people really use cheap ones for this? The heavy duty ones are used to store things that need to be frozen like fish and such. Those are worth reusing and washing.

    Therefore, I think it’s a little unreasonable to say you can only save about $1.42. Because if you get 500 bags for $8.xx, and you reuse each one seven times, that’s 3,500 uses. And usually these things are for storing things that you don’t always need to wash. For example, I store goldfish snacks in a baggie, and the next day, I just refill it. It’s the same food.. probably you can store it with similar snacks, not having to wash the bag. I don’t find this dirty or moldy or anything, I’ve been doing it for years.

    And if you must feel clean and wash it, then you could just rinse the bag for simple things like bread and cookies, or anything not very greasy.

    The bag may look a bit crappy after with crumbs and wrinkles, but you still save one bag already. That’s just what I think.

  50. Vikki says:

    Ashley #24, yes. That’s what I often do, and it works ok. I don’t keep anything in the freezer longer than about 3 months, so doing so longer may have different results.

    I use pyrex containers with plastic lids wherever I can. for both environmental and frugal reasons. and I have some “sandwich bags” made from recycled oilcloth that I picked up at a craft fair which cover many other bases. Waxed paper or parchment work for almost everything else.

    Here’s a link to some more detail on the biodegradability of parchment: http://www.thecitycook.com/cooking/articles/general/000127

  51. Brittany says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Trent way-expensive dishwasher figure. 15.6 cents to run the dishwasher…0.9 cents a bag?! You can only fit 8 sandwich ziploc bags and nothing else in your dishwasher? Really?

  52. T. says:

    It’s great to see so many environmentally concerned citizens commenting on your blog. I use pyrex with a plastic lid for most of my stuff (I also trust glass more than plastic when reheating!). When I do have have to use them, I try to wash the ziplocks afterwards. After washing them I reuse them for food, but I also use them for toiletries when traveling, for pens and notebooks when going to the beach, camping, etc… Trent- though the plastic bags are “cheap” there are other costs not included… digging into my economics class mental archives I believe the term is “externalities”. There was pollution in their production and there is pollution in their disposal (even when recycling).

  53. Elle says:

    @Sheila (#4) – Here’s a link to a composting discussion thread. The folks on the message board there seem to think that wax paper does decompose over time.

    http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/soil/msg0800304916602.html

    Good idea to wrap sandwiches in wax paper, by the way. How does it hold up compared to Ziplocs and/or bagggies?

  54. Courtney says:

    Gretchen – me too. If you’re using them for dry stuff, why do you have to wash them? I make homemade granola bars and take them in my lunch. I keep a plastic baggie in there for at least 2 weeks.

  55. Kai says:

    I think this is another thing that is about more than money. Yes, for monetary savings alone, it’s probably not worth it. But for the sake of the environment, when it’s a little bit of work to reuse something, then it’s worth it for the sake of both the small impact, and the benefit of habitually reducing consumption and trash.

    I often label bags, and will use them a lot without washing first. For example, ‘crackers’ can be shaken empty and refilled many times. If there’s something truly skungy, I toss the bag.

  56. Jennifer says:

    I use the ziploc “take and toss” containers or similar over plastic bags 95% of the time. Most of my ziploc use is from re-packaging meat to freeze like many posters. Those never get re-used, just tossed. I might use one bag/week or less. Sometimes I’ll occasionally use a bag and just re-use it, no washing necessary. Like I had a bread bag rip, so the bread went in a gallon ziploc, when it was gone I filled it with biscuits I baked. All I did was shake it out. I plan to use it again for something else after the biscuits are gone.

  57. Diane says:

    I’ve been hand-washing and reusing plastic bags for 25 years. I freeze meat in them, thaw the meat in the bag, wash the bag with detergent and warm water, and have never gotten sick. For me, it’s about being mindful of how I use resources. I wash dishes by hand using the same technique that “power shower” people recommend: soap the rag or sponge, wet the dish, scrub it with the water off and then rinse the dish over another one so that rinse water becomes soaking water. I know that newer dishwashers use less water, but hand washing saves electricity too.

  58. Evangeline says:

    Shevaun, I wasn’t even talking about your comments.

  59. T. says:

    I’ve never heard of someone dishwashing (in the dishwasher) a reusable bag. That IMHO is overkill and a waste of space in the D/W. I take my freezer bags full of bread, waffles, etc and just rinse them out when I am done. 5-7 seconds of water, hang over something to dry…and I’m done. I don’t reuse small baggies. But freezer bags are $2+ and you only get 15-20 (estimate). So to reuse for me means 5-7 seconds of water swishing back and forth and it means it doesn’t have to be REMADE for each time. I also use containers but let’s face it – they take up a LOT of space in the freezer vs. freezer bags.

  60. Trent says:

    “I’m surprised no one has mentioned Trent way-expensive dishwasher figure. 15.6 cents to run the dishwasher…0.9 cents a bag?! You can only fit 8 sandwich ziploc bags and nothing else in your dishwasher?”

    On the top rack, as I said above. If you open them as wide as possible and spread them across the upper tines, I can only get eight to fit. They’re in an arrangement like this:

    000
    0×0
    000

    where the X is the center part that you shouldn’t put a bag over.

    Because the upper rack is half of the space in a load, I calculated half of the cost of a load for those eight bags – or 1/16 of a load cost per baggie. Since a load costs roughly 15 cents in detergent and water, that’s 0.9 a load.

  61. Barbara says:

    Trent. first of all, even if the top of the dishwasher has bags, surely the rest of the dishwasher is full and using electricty and water as well?? I dont know of any one who washed just bags, any more than I know of any one who washes just a set of cloth napkins or just a dishtowel. Secondly, most bags dont have to be washed in the dishwasher, some dont have to be washed at all. a bag that has held chips for a lunch can just be shaken out, or in a pinch rinsed out and put over the drainboard. Lastly, I agree iwth the reusable container crowd. Why buy bags when there are storage containers of all kinds. To the gal who said they got freezer burn in containers, the answer is……….get smaller containers that match your meat and leftovers better

  62. rrn124 says:

    I use a variety of ziploc (generic) bags for freezing, using the vacuum-straw method. Most items don’t grease up the bag, so I just hand wash when doing the other dishes (hot water). I will reuse the ones that hold the vacuum for the freezer and use the ones that don’t hold vacuum for other temp storage (crackers, screws, batteries, whatever, etc). This, to me. is just common sense, not wasting anything usable. Not thinking evnironmental or economical.

    randy

  63. Nicole says:

    This would have made a hilarious April 1st post. I can just imagine the comments when you advocated saving a full $1.42 for an hour of work. Mine would probably have been one of them! (And boy would I have felt dumb afterward.)

  64. Diane says:

    Here’s my approach: I only buy the heavy duty freezer bags as they last far longer than the flimsy sandwich bags, I throw the used (but not yucky) bags into a basket. I wash them in the sink when I have other things that need hand washing. I hang them to dry on one of two baby bottle drying racks that I got at garage sales.
    I don’t think it saves all that much money, but it keeps excess plastic out of landfills and it’s a small, steady reminder to myself to use resources wisely.

  65. Steve in W MA says:

    Unless you don’t live near a Sam’s Club and ziplocs cost you about 7 times the price you are quoting.

    I find it kind of relaxing to wash them. I usually do it by hand. It’s more part and parcel of taking care of what I have than a monetary thing. But at sopmthing like $3.00 for a bag of 20 freezer bags, it’s worthwhile as well for a small amount of savings.

    As to reusing the meat ones–why not? after the bags are dry the bacteria on them will die within a couple of days. Since I only buy meat maybe once a month, that’s plenty of time for them to become totally safe. If I had any real concern about it I’d soak them in a dilute bleach solution, 1 Tbsp per gallon of water.

    I use the Ziploc Vaccuum bags for meat, (the hand-pumped kind), they work great, but they cost about 35cents each, so reusing them is worthwhile to me. After they are cleaned, dried, and have sat dry for weeks there is no realistic danger from bacteria.

  66. Steve in W MA says:

    @ marta “Some things, such as the flushing issue aren’t just about money. Also, not every fricking minute of our time can have a monetary value attached to it. Sometimes people are just…there, doing nothing.”

    LOL! I love it!

  67. becky says:

    haha! i love this post. i always wondered if it was worth it. and now, because of your little science project, i know. thanks!

  68. Wow Trent. Interesting article and analysis. I am a consumer miser, but I would not have thought about washing ziplocks on a mass basis as a possible saving method, even though you conclude its not worth it. On occasion I will use a ziplock more than once, mostly for dry items or for the same item such as pasta which will be refrigerated. Also, with washing ziplocks, some environmentalist would say that they are not designed to be reused and could discharge some chemicals into your food.

  69. Jimmy says:

    This series of posts (washing ziplock bags, if its yellow, let it mellow) is really interesting to me… It’s really kind of a mythbuster type thing.

    If you do get the chance, maybe you can look at the notion that if you’re only going to be using a little bit of water at the sink, don’t turn it to the hot water side, since you won’t get to the hot water anyways, and you ended up wasting the hot water that does come into the pipe…

  70. Stephanie says:

    We do this with my 8 year old stepson’s school snacks- reusable rigid containers would never come back home, we were wasting a ton of money and he quickly became tired of replacing the containers with his allowance. Dried fruit, granola, muffins, veggie sticks etc… are not so messy and it only takes a moment to wash out a Ziploc when dishes are being washed anyway. He is quite good at bringing home the empty bags to reuse and likes how his snack no longer takes up so much space in his backpack.
    He recently commented how on earth day his class was talking about how to help the planet and he said reusing his snack bags kept plastic out of landfills- now some of his friends do it too.

  71. Why not make a reusable sandwich wrapper instead? I made one out of a gallon bag, some scrap fabric, and velcro. You can just wipe it off when it gets dirty.

  72. Wow,

    I don’t think I could ever get that into my habits of living frugally.

    Its just not cost effective for the time involved.

    I love the creativity, though!

  73. Kate says:

    I try and reuse plastic bags as much as possible and agree that it is an environmental question. Whenever I package meat like ground beef, sausage, or chicken parts for the freezer I portion it out and wrap it separately in wax paper. Then I use an washed ziploc bag that had meat in it to store them. I store those kinds of bags in the top shelf in my freezer so I always know where they are.
    I’m glad to hear that wax paper decomposes. I wondered but hadn’t taken the time to find out for sure.

  74. janet says:

    Flushing (or not, to be exact) and washing and re-using baggies is not about efficiency and saving money, it’s an environmental choice. Those baggies don’t biodegrade. And urine (unless you have a medical problem) has no bacteria.

  75. Anthony says:

    I didn’t read through all of the other comments, but here’s a suggestion.

    If you stored dry foods (cookies come to mind), does the Ziploc really need a wash? Just take it and dump all of the crumbs into the garbage.

    Or just use the bag and, once your done with it, refrigerate it. Then use it to store the same food items later.

    For example, if I make a turkey sandwich. I’ll store it in the bag, bring it to work, eat the sandwich, then take the bag home. Then, I’d just refrigerate the bag. *IF* there were any meat or mayo touching the bag, it wouldn’t spoil while in the fridge, at least for some amount of time.

  76. Sharon says:

    I do not wash and reuse the small lunch baggies but the quart and gallon size one ones I wash by HAND and put over something to to dry, They are very expensive esp the freezer ones and if I can get more than one use out of i”m going to! To me that’s just common sense.

  77. Sharon says:

    I rarely use zippered bags…I use plastic wrap and reuse glass jars for storage of things like cereal, or I use plastic containers for things like cut up veggies.

    Come on folks, if it’s about helping/saving the environment (and not being a cheapskate), then why are you buying/using that stuff anyway?

    I read that every US citizen throws away 20 plastic bags a DAY!!! I’ve cut my consumption way down adn you should too.

  78. We wash them out with regular dishes and it’s not any trouble at all, so we save them. But we, as a family, tend to try to stretch anything supposedly disposable in the interest of keeping landfills a little less cluttered, so the money savings isn’t our primary concern. We’re also a part of the container crowd – we tend to use our old ziplocks for things like the attachments for the piping bag or food processor and containers for food and packed lunches. I can’t remember that last time we bought any ziplocks.

  79. Jackie says:

    I read almost all of your writings and subscribe in my email. My adult children are readers as well and we discuss these and where we apply them in our lives.
    I grewup washing ziplock/storage bags. The way I see it is this. This are easy to store in the frig, where a container will take up more room.
    Its better for the enviroment overall as less waste at the landfill and less manufacture of the box they come in. I will continue to do this.
    Enjoyed your article.

  80. Jackie says:

    I grewup washing (by hand) and reusing plastic bags. I see savings in different areas:
    Landfull
    purchase
    manufacture of box they come in and shippment of them
    Thanks for the article. I enjoy them all and am a regular reader and well as my adult children.
    It opens up discussion between us and helpful in management of money.

  81. Geoff Hart says:

    I wash any bag that isn’t coated with grease on the inside; I find those bags too hard to clean sufficiently for reuse (grease sticks hard to plastic). I don’t put them in the dishwasher because that seems wasteful of space, and because it takes seconds to clean them by hand while I’m doing the other dishes.

    To me, it’s ethical to reuse these bags as often as possible: reduce (oil consumption to produce plastic), reuse (when I can’t use plastic containers for some reason), and recycle (when the bag reaches its end of life).

    As you note, the human economics of saving a penny per bag don’t make much sense, but the environmental economics make a great deal of sense.

  82. Sherry says:

    No,I don’t currently wash my Ziploc bags. I might consider it but right now I’m just happy to get my dishes washed!

  83. Ginger says:

    A $1.43…it doesn’t take an hour to wash a plastic bag. There are many alternatives to plastic bags–re-usable plastic boxes (do not microwave), glass containers, even stainless steel boxes. I use waxed paper to wrap sandwiches, then sometimes put this into a box for stability. I ask the same question about aluminum foil-do you wash and re-use it? Again, the main concern here isn’t so much the cash cost as the environmental cost.

  84. Jane says:

    We buy the big sturdy ziploc bags for the freezer. I buy cheaper sandwich bags (that still seal). When we buy chicken or beef in bulk, we divide the meats into smaller portions and put it in the sandwich bags and then double bag them in the larger ziploc bags. I reuse the outer bag over and over but of course don’t reuse the others. We go through very little bags this way, and I don’t have to wash bags very often. We do the same thing with other items and it works just fine – veggies, fruits, etc. I find having things double bagged in the freezer really helps with freezer burn and longevity.

  85. Renee says:

    I reuse “baggies”. My grandmother reused baggies. The idea of putting bread or something dry in one for a few days then throwing it away makes my skin crawl. It is just as much about wasting money as it is filling up our landfills. We have become such a instant “throw away” society, we will all be stepping over plastics to get anywhere. Not just about money!

  86. colleen c says:

    Do we know for sure that washing them with hot water and detergent is SAFE? I always washed and reused plastic water bottles until I read that they were really only designed for one use and that hot water and/or detergent broke them down and released chemicals not meant for us to drink. Dishwasher detergent is caustic and it seems like it might cause a similar problem. I reuse zipper bags when I can just shake them out and remove crumbs, and for “wet” things I try my best not to use them at all.

    I invested in reusable bags in snack sizes and use those for the kids’ lunches. These are little fabric or vinyl sacks that are MEANT to be reused and they are working beautifully. My family is also using the stainless steel water bottles now and I buy no more of the disposable bottles.

  87. Pottery Lover says:

    I wash and reuse Wal-Mart’s Great Value ziplock bags because it is about the money. I have to pay for each bag and if I wash and reuse it, I am saving money. It doesn’t matter what my time is worth–I am washing the dishes by hand anyway and would have to pay for a new bag if I didn’t reuse it.
    It does matter how often I have to buy a new box at $2.12 as that is money out of my wallet. It is much easier to to save my money than it is to earn more money ($2.12)to replace what I spent.
    I enjoy saving money on little things like that to spend it on things that will bring me more pleasure that having a new baggie every time I need one. It comes down to a matter of priorities. Having a “new bag” each time isn’t that important to me. We all decide how we want to spend our money and time–and it is a personal preference.

  88. sandi says:

    Honestly, using the dishwasher? How money saving is that?

  89. Mary says:

    I find this kind of topic, like the toilet flushing also, more useful than a lot of others…I don’t generally reuse ziplocs, I just figured by the time I rinsed it well & waited 2 weeks for it to dry (lol) it wasn’t worth the cent or two. We recycle but to me recycling something like a gallon plastic milk jug uses more well water to get it rinsed well than the earth I’m saving. Maybe I”m wrong but when I feel like I’ve used gallons of my well water to get it ready for recycling it just seems detrimental to what I’m trying to accomplish. Have you done a comparison on cleaning disposable diapers yet hee hee….

  90. Nicole says:

    #45 Colleen. Very good point. Since we’ve had a kid we’ve moved away from reusable plastic anything. We’ve started gradually replacing everything with pyrex and stainless steel. BPA is worrisome, and even more worrisome is the chemical replacing BPA that nobody has figured out yet.

  91. KC says:

    I reuse plastic bags for environmental and cost reasons. Obviously if I put pretzels or bread or something in one I’m going to reuse it. Now if mayonnaise or something that could make me sick gets one he bag them I throw it away. But I try to stick with things like foil, parchment or wax paper, which I can reuse, recycle and is more biodegradable. I also find tupperware or some sort of permanent container to also be a good solution.

  92. Georgia says:

    To prevent freezer burn I have taken to using Press n Seal. It is marvelous. I then stack and put in a large plastic bag or container. It costs a little more, but it has saved me a bundle in freezer burned meat and stuff. I sometime even reuse the PnS if it held bread or other dry ingredients. Also, for meat, you could put it on a cookie sheet, freeze it, and then store in the plastic bags. That would keep contamination to the barest minimum.

  93. Meg says:

    @Sheila

    Just about NOTHING decomposes if you send it to a landfill. Not even food scraps decompose well there, and definitely not all that “biodegradable” and “compostable” stuff that’s being marketed to the green-minded. So, if you want something to decompose, you have to compost it yourself unless there is a program locally you can take advantage of.

    ———————

    I try to avoid plastic bags in general, but when I can reasonably do so I reuse them for environmental reasons.

  94. Karen says:

    A quick wash in sudsy water when doing the dishes, rinse, and hang to dry is just so easy. My husband made a dryer stand that I use all the time. It’s similar to ones that companies like reusablebags.com sell, and it was inexpensive for him to make. There’s a clever solution at http://www.casasugar.com/Casa-Verde-Plastic-Bag-Stand-703661 . It uses a toothbrush holder and dowels. Bags are really handy for some things, but my first choice would be containers. When the bags show too much wear, I use them in the garage, or to store something when traveling. I agree it’s about saving money as well as being more environmentally sound.

  95. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much for liberating me from my bag washing! I was washing them out of habit, hoping to save a few cents, and felt rather guilty about just tossing them after one use. You’re right; my time IS more valuable!!! Thanks again!

  96. Michelle says:

    How about wrapping meat in foil when you freeze? Just wrap one layer of wax paper, and another layer of foil, keeps the freezer burn out and both the foil and wax paper a recyclable.

    I find it awfully self-righteous of people to talk about reusing bags as a way of helping the environment. If you were really *that* concerned about it, you wouldn’t be using plastic baggies in the first place.

  97. Faculties says:

    I find the idea of *not* washing bags just kind of dismaying. Why would you throw away something that’s perfectly good? It would be like throwing away a pencil because you had to sharpen it before you used it again. The fact that you save a few cents is just a bonus; it’s about making good use of what you have.

  98. Lesley says:

    Trent, thanks for this post. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time … the comments are priceless.

  99. Leah says:

    I typically don’t use ziplocs — we try to save them for raw meat in the freezer (and reuse by marinating the meat in the same ziploc once the meat is thawed). We will put trail mix bags, oatmeal, etc into a ziploc to keep them fresh but not take up as much room as a canister in our camping stuff. In that case, I don’t even wash the ziploc — I just put more of the same into it.

    Yes, I do somewhat agree with Trent. Washing ziplocs like a crazy fiend is not worth it. But, like others in this thread, I question the need to use ziplocs frequently. My plastic ziploc “tupperware” stuff works great for sandwiches and snack food, and they last substantially longer than any ziploc.

    On the other hand, I use to teach waste reduction to kids in schools. What I have found is that it’s better to give losing-stuff-prone kids ziploc bags, because then you’re not losing a lot of money/being bad to the environment every time your kid loses a lunchbag. But if you or your kids can reasonably keep track of lunch and a few containers, I’d go that route rather than bother with plastic bags.

    Last thing: I love #51′s comment — it’s not about saving a few cents. It’s about making good use of what you have and not needlessly throwing something out when it can be reused.

  100. Leah says:

    @Mary (#46): you don’t have to perfectly clean your stuff to recycle it. Just rinse the milk jug a little so you don’t have tons of milk in there to spoil. They’ll rewash your recyclables at the plant.

  101. deRuiter says:

    I don’t buy new containers. They come with take away food like Chinese. They come wrapping a loaf of bread (lovely clear plastic bag with a bit of printing on it, shake out the crumbs and use. The containers come from the “free” box at yard sales, they come from friends who have too many and don’t want to throw them in the trash, They come cheaply from tag, estate and house sales. I’m not adverse to washing a (non meat holding) plastic bag with the dinner dishes, zip loc or other. And in warm weather, all our dishes are hand washed in dish pans in the sink, and the water tossed on the potted flowers on the front porch. We get two uses from the water, and two or more from the occasional plastic storage bag. Every time you can reuse something, instead of tossing it into a landfill after one use, our environment is cleaner, our balance of trade is improved, and our personal cash position is improved. “Waste not, want not.”

  102. Shelley says:

    Put me in on the side washing, just like Amy Dacyzyn did.

  103. Eric says:

    Pure comedy. I wish I had enough time (or maybe interest?) to test re-using baggies to see if it would save me money.

  104. Jane says:

    Trent, you are too too funny!

    I don’t use sandwich zip locks (for sandwiches….hhmmm maybe I should)But a box seems to last me forever, so I don’t worry about rinsing them out and reusing them again..
    I DO use them to store small things, all that jazz..(oh and if I break something..a glass or small plate..I out it in a ziplock before throwing it out so it doesn’t pierce the garbage bag or trash handler)
    I DO use gallon ziplocks.. my ziplocks get used many times EACH. I first use them to hold crackers or breads..dry things. They might be used for dry things several times.
    Then they graduate to holding wetter things, like produce. If the produce doesn’t, for whatever reason spoil, they get rinsed and used to hold more produce, or possibly even cakes (separately wrapped and slices, stored in the freezer).
    Then they are used to collect vegetable scraps for compost..THEN they get thrown out.. NO bags that hold meat of fatty things get reused (for instance I use ziplocks to freeze stock and gravies flat in the freezer..makes stacking easier.)
    I have never used a dishwasher to wash out a bag…I rinse them out in the sink after turning them inside out to wash and dry…
    O never did it to save money, more for adding less plastic to the land fills…
    Some of the ideas here are very good…(my left over containers come from Chinese food too..)
    Haha..theres an old New England saying (I am not from New England)
    “Use it up,
    Wear it out,
    Make it do,
    or do without”…
    Keep up the good work…

  105. Peter says:

    For sanitation, I use once for food. Then wash and use for storage.

    Wash and use again for food? Penny wise, dollar dumb…

  106. SLCCOM says:

    I not only wash my ziplocs, even if they had meat, but I will keep using them for dry foods if they have a small leak.

    For freezing, if you put your meat in waxed paper, then in a bag, that reduces freezer burn. Also, you can put a number of small bags into a gallon bag. When I cut up London broil for future Chinese meals, I put one meal worth into the quart bags, folded them to get air out and then put the small bags into a gallon bag. Easy, and when you use them, put a bit of detergent in them and let them dry, and reuse. I don’t go through many bags, unless I let one stay in a tote bag that gets “acquired” by the dogs and chewed up.

    I agree with buying the good ones. The off-brand are flimsy, break fast and often become impossible to seal later. I get the freezer bags and reuse. After the holidays, you can often get “special” decorated bags on deep clearance, too.

  107. SLCCOM says:

    Er, put a bit of detergent in them, wash and rinse them, THEN let them dry…

  108. Kathleen says:

    I don’t care whether people wash or don’t wash the bags. The thing I won’t do is buy at Sam’s Club. Buying at Walmart or anything related to Walmart is immmoral to me.

  109. Sara says:

    I do wash my ziplocs too. Like many above I use them only where appropriate and follow by washing in the sink when I’m already doing dishes. They last quite a while that way. I also ‘recycle’ them from different foods that come in my CSA packaged this way. With washing and recycling I haven’t bought baggies in the past 6 months; and the ‘new’ box is still a quarter full with 2 people in my home using them to pack lunches. I think the dishwasher might be harsh on them. Another point I didn’t see mentioned here is that you need to be careful to not put ‘sharp’ things in them like chopped nuts and forks, this severely limits their life-span.

  110. Jenna says:

    Some of these comments are really funny. For me, this issue is not even about saving $. It’s about preventing waste. Even if all the enviromental issues turn out to be false, waste is never cool. Us American have become quite accustomed to convenient, disposable goods and it’s not good for the planet. Boo-hoo if it takes an extra few seconds of time or you have the “mellow yellow” in your toilet a few times a day. In fact, with people always complaining of a lack of down time, maybe a few seconds rinsing some bags might provide relief from a hectic day :)

  111. Laurie says:

    Am I the only person who thinks that the taste of the plastic bag transfers to a lot of foods? (especially bread, chips and more porous starches)!

    We’ve gone to using Wrap-n-mats for sandwiches and small glass containers for little snacks etc. Environmental reasons notwithstanding, I’ve been in plastic plants. I don’t want my kids eating off anything plastic and I certainly don’t want them eating anything out of plastic that has been heated.

    The appropriate way to freeze meat is to use butcher paper – not waxed paper or foil. My stuff is butcher paper wrapped and then put into large containers by type. It works great and NO freezer burn. Only problem is that it is getting difficult to track butcher paper down!

  112. GJW says:

    I not only reuse plastic ziplock type baggies, i re-use the thin plastic bags that you put fresh produce in at the grocery store. They work great for covering open bowls or pans (instead of a new sheet of cellophane or cling wrap), or for wrapping fresh loaves of homemade bread. I even hand wash them and dry them. I wish there were a way to not use them at the store, but fresh produce on the germy surfaces of the carts and the checkout belt isn’t worth the risk.

  113. Amy says:

    I really see a lot of these things (baggie washing, flushing, reusing tea bags, taking extra Sweet and Low) as a mind set. Trying to determine if you are looking for ways to save, you save. I know people living on less then 10,000 dollars a year. (Yes I could even tell you how.) This is how they save. I might think it is a waste of my time and money but they don’t.

    A long time ago I stopped trying to determine what was the best way to save. I think people save in the ways they can.

    Thanks for the post.
    Amy

  114. J says:

    @Laurie, doesn’t the Wrap-n-mat have a plastic lining? We had them for a while and I definitely recall a plastic liner where the sandwich went.

  115. oneofnine says:

    I know this isn’t an environmental blog, but you could use the opportunity to spread the word about considering our planet and our childrens heritage when you are posting! How about a simple dollar shout-out for saving our kids many, many dollars for cleaning up the gargantuan amounts of plastic we’re leaving on the earth for THEM? Stiff plastic or small glass containers (such as baby food jars) are much more cost-effective than ziploc bags. Eliminate them altogether and know you’re eliminating tons of plastic from the landfills as well. Not to mention the chemicals in soft plastic (such as BPA) DOES leech into the foods contained inside, then we feed those chemicals to our young children. For shame! How about a cost analysis on the doctor bills from our children getting sick off toxic chemicals next?

  116. Trent says:

    The math in this article applies to sandwich-sized Ziploc bags that can be purchased for less than two cents a piece. I myself rewash gallon sized freezer Ziploc bags because (1) they cost a lot more per new bag and (2) they’re sturdier and can stand up to a lot more washings. I covered the freezer bags a long time ago.

  117. Dawn says:

    Reusing is great – if you save a few pennies, why not.

    But if you are re-washing baggies to save the planet, make a real difference and REDUCE, it make a much bigger impact and I agree with oneofnine – I don’t want BPA leeching into my children’s food.

  118. Caroline says:

    You’re only going to save money and the environment by not buying any plastic bags (as I’m sure many people have already stated, but I just wanted to say it again). I use containers that are meant to be reused and it’s all gravy!

  119. reulte says:

    I’ve never bought a ziploc or other type of plastic bag — isn’t my halo shiny! :-) — but I’ve accumulated them upon occasion. I flip them inside out before washing (either in the sink wearing them like a pair of gloves as I wash or in the dishwasher – when I had one – in a mesh laundry bag) when they actually need washing which isn’t often. Sandwish bags almost never need cleaning except to dust out the crumbs. Frozen soup? Let it thaw a bit then ‘rub’ the bag off as you peel it inside out – then clean. Raw meat or chicken? Yep, I clean them out and reuse them after a thorough drying (usually by sunlight at the window), although I prefer to use butcher paper to individually wrap meat or chicken in servig sizes; fish gets frozen in salt water. After the food cycle, the baggies get tossed to the boy for his crayons or soldiers or other treasures.

    Here in Fort Lauderdale, we do separate our garbage – lawn trimmings in one container, paper, plastice/glass/metal in another and garbage in a third.

  120. Heather says:

    I reuse anything and everything I can, not because it saves money (a nice benefit, though), but because of that floating pile of trash in the Pacific. I’d rather not contribute to it. So, I’ll keep reusing those bags (when I use them at all).

  121. Stella says:

    I don’t use Ziplocs for sandwiches–mainly the heavy duty ones for the freezer. I rinse them and use them several times. It’s not about the money for me, but reducing landfill (or the floating island of plastic in the Pacific as Heather mentions…).

  122. Olivia says:

    We first got bags because we have a son who loses all those nifty reusable containers.

    Washing ziplocks for reuse is part of a frugality mindset. I wash them out and don’t use them for meat. All kinds of other bags work well for that, bread bags, frozen vegetable bags, etc.

    Once you set up a container of soapy water for your dishes, do the bags first, rinse them in another dishpan of rinse water, turn them inside out, and let them air dry. They last far more than eight washings. It’s one of many things we do as a matter of course and over time all these things add up. I also reuse jars for canning, add papers from the shredder to the compost pile, make jelly from the juice in canned fruit, do crazy quilts. These little bits may not save the world but it does impact our family budget and puts me in a “creative reuse” mindset.

    If we didn’t have to, I might not have tried these things, (my Mom never did), but these skills are worth knowing even if our situation changes. It’s allowed us to get by with less and given us encouragement that we can do something to better our situation. That all is not lost.

  123. Ashley says:

    My mom is religious about re-using bags, even the super cheap ones. However, something to consider about reusing ziptop bags is the number of bags you’re going to be reusing. If you’re like my mother and buy roughly ONE box every six months, I can totally see this saving a small amount of money. [She swears that it saves her at least $20 a year.]

    I prefer using Lock-it containers for home storage in combination with my To-Go Ware container for meal transport and taking leftovers home from the restaurant. Not only do they save money, but they’re both nice to the environment. Ziptop bags, no matter how many times you use them, are not. :)

  124. Squirrelers says:

    I reuse ziploc-type bags as well as the thin produce bags from the grocery store. For me, the use would not be for food but for – believe it or not – throwing away other food. For example, if I have a banana, I put the peel in a used ziploc bag and then throw it out. This way the garbage can in the kitchen doesn’t smell.

    Not frugal to the extreme that most other posting here are with these bags, but at least I feel good about putting them to good use.

    Now, when it comes to the large, freezer-type ziploc bags, I would consider reusing those.

    Anyway – interesting topic.

  125. Tiffany says:

    I am a little concerned with this article and comments because I see a lot of people are obviously not aware of the lethal consequences following the use of plastics and food, especially when heat (washing with hot water and soap) is applied. The chemicals in plastic are cancer-causing, and although it is sometimes costly to replace ALL plastics in the household, it has been known for quite sometime that re-using plastic food containers, bags, plastic wrap, baby bottles, water bottles, thermos containers, tupperware, etc. is harmful to one’s health. I hope you guys research this before trying to pinch pennies. Those few cents are not worth your and your families lives. You can’t take it with you when you go.

  126. Stacy K says:

    I agree with those who say it’s not worth the money savings OR your time OR your health to rewash and reuse Ziploc and other plastic bags.

    We’ve switched over to reusable snack and sandwich baggies for our lunches and I can wash those bags without worry. There is an initial investment, but we’ve used our bags daily for a long time and they’re still holding up fine. Like anything else, buy quality, take care of it, and it will reward you with years of use.

    For those who are looking at switching to reusable snack baggies, I found a really informative article comparing the 4 major brands on various factors, including sizes, styles, durability, etc… Hope it helps someone else go green the right way:

    http://hubpages.com/hub/Reusable-Snack-Baggie-Comparison

  127. Patricia says:

    I want to comment even though this was posted awhile ago. Have you ever held a newly opened box of Ziplocs up to your nose and took a whiff? Knock you over! It is really hard to get away from using them, but I am. I use wax paper and freezer paper. I even froze parboiled broccoli in freezer paper. The smell of fresh plastic makes me sick. So I know it can’t be good for you. Kind of like going by those long pig and chicken barns. When something smells that bad you know it’s not right. I store many things in glass jars–even in the freezer–just leave a little room for expansion of the product.

  128. Sandy L says:

    Wow, Tiffany, plastics are lethal?

    Where is this data coming from? You think the FDA would continue to knowingly approve the use of Lethal products in food packaging containers? Do you know how much testing is done on products before they’re approved for food contact use? Years.

    There is decades of data on commercial products using a variety of plastics. I’m pretty sure if they were lethal or even posed the risk of being lethal, they would be pulled off the shelves.

  129. John Dale says:

    Plastic containers don’t work for putting in paper lunch bags for school paper bag lunches. Kids can’t store the containers. I hand wash and hang on clip magnets on the fridge. Would like to hear more on the chemicals leeching, I assumed plastic was inert until heated to high temps.

  130. Oct says:

    I use a plastic bag for say chips or crackers or cookies and I dont wash that bag at all. I just dump out the dry crumbs. It is painless and I reuse these bags endlessly. I handwash other bags whenever I do the dishes and then hang dry over the knife rack. I dont think I spend much energy in fact. It is just a routine — like washing your silverware. Using common sense you realize that a lot of bags get thrown away that are crystal clear clean.

    Look it is not for everyone, but it is not a waste to reuse bags.

  131. Remarkable! Its really remarkable post, I have got much clear idea regarding from this
    article.

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